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The White House Is Still a Work in Progress

Tarp covers construction work at the White House, Aug. 16, 2010 CBS/Peter Maer

It happens almost every time a president departs the White House on an extended trip. Construction crews and painters go to work.

As President Obama took off on a three-day political journey, workers revved up power washers and other equipment. The grand portico outside the Oval Office and Cabinet Room was draped in huge white tarps as workers started what a spokesman described as routine maintenance.

The White House has been a work in progress since John Adams became the first president to live in what was variously described as the "President's House" or even the "Presidential Palace."

Soon after, the building was expanded during the Jefferson years even though Thomas Jefferson said the place was too grand, "big enough for two emperors, one pope and the grand lama."

Just over a decade later, much of the house had to be reconstructed after it was heavily damaged during the War of 1812.

Fast forward to the Theodore Roosevelt years when the famous West Wing was built. Just eight years later, President William Howard Taft commissioned the first Oval Office.

The most extensive renovation came in 1948. Experts determined that the old house was literally falling apart. President Harry Truman moved across the street to Blair House while the interior of the building was gutted and rebuilt.

Today a huge crane is at work on a portion of the North Lawn where a major underground utility project is underway.

More noisy "heavy lifting" is expected when the Obamas depart for a ten-day trip to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts later this week.

CBS news contributor correspondent Peter Maer CBS
Peter Maer is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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